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Ptolemy II of Egypt

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Ptolemy II of Egypt

For the son of Cleopatra VII and Mark Antony, see Ptolemy Philadelphus (Cleopatra).
Ptolemy II (Philadelphus)
King of Egypt
Arsinoe II
Reign 285–246 BC
Greek Πτολεμαῖος Φιλάδελφος
Ancient Egyptian Userkanaenre Meryamun[1]
Died 246 BC
Predecessor Ptolemy I
Successor Ptolemy III
Consort Arsinoe I, Arsinoe II
Dynasty Ptolemaic
Father Ptolemy I
Mother Berenice I

Ptolemy II Philadelphus (Greek: Πτολεμαῖος Φιλάδελφος, Ptolemaîos Philádelphos, 309–246 BC) was the king of Ptolemaic Egypt from 283 BC to 246 BC. He was the son of the founder of the Ptolemaic kingdom Ptolemy I Soter and Berenice, and was educated by Philitas of Cos. He had two half-brothers, Ptolemy Keraunos and Meleager, who both became kings of Macedonia (in 281 BC and 279 BC respectively), and who both died in the Gallic invasion of 280–279 BC. Ptolemy was first married to Arsinoë I, daughter of Lysimachus, who was the mother of his legitimate children; after her repudiation he married his full sister Arsinoë II, the widow of Lysimachus.[2]

During Ptolemy's reign, the material and literary splendour of the Alexandrian court was at its height. He promoted the Museum and Library of Alexandria, and he erected a commemorative stele, the Great Mendes Stela.

Reign

Ptolemy II began his reign as co-regent with his father Ptolemy I from ca. 285 BC to ca. 283 BC, and maintained a splendid court in Alexandria.

Egypt was involved in several wars during his reign. Magas of Cyrene opened war on his half-brother (274 BC), and the Seleucid king Antiochus I Soter, desiring Coele-Syria with Judea, attacked soon after in the First Syrian War. Two or three years of war followed. Egypt's victories solidified the kingdom's position as the undisputed naval power of the eastern Mediterranean; his fleet (112 ships) bore the most powerful naval siege units of all time, guaranteed the king access to the coastal cities of his empire. The Ptolemaic sphere of power extended over the Cyclades to Samothrace, and the harbours and coast towns of Cilicia Trachea, Pamphylia, Lycia and Caria.

In the 270 BC Ptolemy hired 4,000 Gallic mercenaries (who in 279 BC under Bolgios killed his half-brother Ptolemy Keraunos). According to Pausanias, soon after arrival the Gauls plotted “to seize Egypt,” and so Ptolemy marooned them on a deserted island in the Nile River where “they perished at one another’s hands or by famine.”[3]

The victory won by Antigonus II Gonatas, king of Macedonia, over the Egyptian fleet at Cos (between 258 BC and 256 BC) did not long interrupt Ptolemy's command of the Aegean Sea. In a Second Syrian War with the Seleucid kingdom, under Antiochus II Theos (after 260 BC), Ptolemy sustained losses on the seaboard of Asia Minor and agreed to a peace by which Antiochus married his daughter Berenice (c. 250 BC).

Ptolemy was of a delicate constitution. Elias Joseph Bickermann (Chronology of the Ancient World, 2nd ed. 1980) gives the date of his death as January 29.

Family

Ptolemy's first wife, Arsinoë I, daughter of Lysimachus, was the mother of his legitimate children:

After her repudiation he married his full sister Arsinoë II, the widow of Lysimachus — an Egyptian custom—which brought him her Aegean possessions.

He also had several concubines. With a woman named Bilistiche he had an (illegitimate) son named Ptolemy Andromachou[4]


He had many mistresses, including Agathoclea (?), Aglais (?) daughter of Megacles, the cupbearer Cleino, Didyme, the Chian harp player Glauce, the flautist Mnesis, the actress Myrtion, the flautist Pothine and Stratonice,[5] and his court, magnificent and dissolute, intellectual and artificial, has been compared with the Versailles of Louis XIV.

Ptolemy deified his parents and his sister-wife after their deaths.

Court

The material and literary splendour of the Alexandrian court was at its height under Ptolemy II. Pomp and splendor flourished. He had exotic animals of far off lands sent to Alexandria, and staged a procession in Alexandria in honor of Dionysus led by 24 chariots drawn by elephants and a procession of lions, leopards, panthers, camels, antelopes, wild asses, ostriches, a bear, a giraffe and a rhinoceros. According to scholars, most of the animals were in pairs - as many as eight pairs of ostriches - and although the ordinary chariots were likely led by a single elephant, others which carried a 7-foot-tall (2.1 m) golden statue may have been led by four.[6] Although an enthusiast for Hellenic culture, he also adopted Egyptian religious concepts, which helped to bolster his image as a sovereign.

Callimachus, keeper of the library, Theocritus,[7] and a host of lesser poets, glorified the Ptolemaic family. Ptolemy himself was eager to increase the library and to patronize scientific research.

The tradition preserved in the pseudepigraphical Letter of Aristeas which connects the Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek with his patronage is probably overdrawn. However, Walter Kaiser says, "There can be little doubt that the Law was translated in Philadelphus's time since Greek quotations from Genesis and Exodus appear in Greek literature before 200 B.C. The language of the Septuagint is more like Egyptian Greek than it is like Jerusalemite Greek, according to some." [8]

Relations with India

Ptolemy is recorded by Pliny the Elder as having sent an ambassador named Dionysius to the Mauryan court at Pataliputra in India, probably to Emperor Ashoka:

"But [India] has been treated of by several other Greek writers who resided at the courts of Indian kings, such, for instance, as Megasthenes, and by Dionysius, who was sent thither by Philadelphus, expressly for the purpose: all of whom have enlarged upon the power and vast resources of these nations." Pliny the Elder, "The Natural History", Chap. 21 [9]

He is also mentioned in the Edicts of Ashoka as a recipient of the Buddhist proselytism of Ashoka, although no Western historical record of this event remains.

See also

References

Bibliography

  • Paul McKechnie / Philippe Guillaume (eds.), Ptolemy II Philadelphus and his World (Leiden, Brill, 2008) (= Mnemosyne. Supplements, 300).

External links

  • Ptolemy Philadelphus at LacusCurtius — (Chapter III of E. R Bevan's House of Ptolemy, 1923)
  • Ptolemy II Philadelphus entry in historical sourcebook by Mahlon H. Smith
  • the Great Mendes Stele of Ptolemy II
Ptolemy II Philadelphus
Born: 309 BC Died: 246 BC
Preceded by
Ptolemy I Soter
Pharaoh of Egypt
283–246 BC
Succeeded by
Ptolemy III Euergetes

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